Hop on to my Batplane. We are going to fantasy land.
When you walk into a room full of millionaires, the average net-worth of the room doubles with every millionaire you throw out of the room. You look like someone whose measurements Da Vinci took to draw the Vitruvian man. You write cheques to charities like it’s a book signing. Scientists when they hit the limitations in understanding the working of a supercomputer, will study your mind.
Of course, there’s more. Has to be. The curse-y factoids: No one knows who you are. They can’t find out. You have no audience.
Except for the old man who works at your mansion, no one knows you are Bruce Wayne reincarnate. You are all-encompassingly sexy and Only you know it.
You can choose to live inside this matrix and enjoy your singularly kickarse non-existence. But I am not sure you will enjoy that.
The 21st-century industry that is finding your purpose, frolicking with freedom, and fastening your dreams to the moon is built on a uniquely 21st-century need: an audience.
You are going to choose to work your way up to the matrix, not for anything else but to build a following. Followers who’ll buy the returnable underpants you endorse. Fans who want the kind of life you have just to have the kind of following you do. People who can testify for your existence but who have little existence of their own. Your audience: The proof of your passage through time: The people who know everything about you, except that you hate your life.
Your purpose, emotions, and dreams mean nothing if they are not validated. Your existence is defined by the number of people that pay attention to you. It’s why your happiness feels empty when you experience it all by yourself. Without envy, it just doesn’t feel real. That’s the new definition of sharing.
When I started writing, I built a small audience in quick time. So I started thinking about traffic and shit. I incurably even considered starting a podcast. My purpose changed and I hated every bit of it. To further my hate, the audience dwindled to accompany the last shred of my self-esteem. I had walked into yet another dead-end of a pursuit. But as dumb luck would have it, I knew of only one way to overcome this purposelessness: write. Maybe it was an escape. Maybe I was (am) secretly still hoping for that audience. But there was one defining quality to this: an aloneness I was (am) comfortable with. No one can take that away from you.
Some famous writers believe writing helps you overcome your loneliness. I never get that. Writing (and art for that matter) only plunges you deeper into loneliness. What’s painfully real about this loneliness is you don’t want to overcome it. It’s why art often looks masochistic. Most artists often produce their best work inside this place of aloneness. Before it is sullied over with expectation, filled-up with anxiety, and torn apart with inattention — by an audience.
It’s why fantasy land has to be a lonely place. A scary place. It’s what made Bruce Wayne – Batman. We want to be Batman because there’s a part of us that wants to be a hero, widely known, humanity saving, not to mention the access to all the cool toys. But what if people never found out it was you? Isn’t that what made Batman a real hero. Bruce Wayne had an audience of five people.
It’s hard to reconcile with things like that anymore. We work our arses off to get to a place of wide renown. We measure our lives not by what we found out about ourselves, but about the number of people that found out about us.
When kids want to be superheroes, it’s the ignorance of someone that wants to make the world better, all alone. When all-knowing adults want to be superheroes, it’s the rabid quest for revelation, for the moment when the better world takes notice. It took for the world to come face to face with its possible obliteration for us to recognize who our heroes really were.
In Batman’s (last) words – A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat on a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.
To live without an audience. To be the most musical sound in the forest that no one hears. To be able to create inside a space of aloneness, enoughness. To have the courage to find out who you are underneath. To live without having to record. To go beyond the need to have lived. To be the world to one rather than the one to the world. A hero’s journey begins when you risk remaining unknown. It will be a far, far better rest that you go to than you’d have ever known.